2

The Garden of Ridván

In addition to Mazra'ih 'Abdu'l-Bahá had earlier on rented the Garden of Na'mayn, an island situated in close proximity to the city of 'Akká. He did this in anticipation of Bahá'u'lláh's release from confinement. After His release Bahá'u'lláh often visited this beautiful spot, usually in the spring, the summer and early autumn seasons. It was designated by Him as the Ridván Garden (Paradise); in some of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh refers to the garden as the 'New Jerusalem' and 'Our Verdant Isle'.

This garden was made beautiful through the dedication and hard work of the Persian believers and the constant supervision and guidance of the Master. They brought great quantities of soil from neighbouring places to make flower-beds all around, while from Persia and neighbouring countries the friends brought many shrubs, trees and flowering plants, some of them rare species. Crossing mountains and deserts, which took several months, they took such care that the plants arrived fresh and ready to be planted in the garden. The care with which the believers brought these plants by long hazardous journeys is an indication of a devotion and a love which finds no parallel in the annals of any religion and which is clearly demonstrated in the beauty of the garden itself.

The motive for undertaking this unusual task, which at first seemed impossible, was a deep sense of love for Bahá'u'lláh, a love which knew no bounds. The friends desired to offer Him an earthly gift of beauty which they knew He enjoyed so much. They went so far as to bring to 'Akká the plant of a rare white rose

11

which had been one of His favourite flowers in Tihrán. In some of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh refers to these plants and expresses warm appreciation of the devotion of those who brought them.

The zeal and devotion of the gardeners who tended the plants and laboured day and night to make the Garden of Ridván a place of beauty for Bahá'u'lláh to enjoy, was no less striking. The Garden of Ridván was situated on a very small island. The little river, which emptied into the sea, divided itself into two streams surrounding that small area of land. In the time of Bahá'u'lláh the garden was laid out in flower-beds and there were many ornamental shrubs and fruit trees. There was a splashing fountain from which water was fed to all parts of the garden. As it flowed, it came rippling down in a broad stream over a stone platform under two large mulberry trees. The stream which flowed by the island was about fourteen to fifteen feet wide and three feet deep; fish were darting about it in abundance. It was fringed with weeping willows, and the fragrance of jasmine and orange blossoms filled the air. Most of these features are preserved today, except that there is no water circling the garden, for the streams have been diverted in recent times.

Whenever Bahá'u'lláh visited the Garden of Ridván it was a joyous occasion not only for Himself but for the Master and all the friends. The atmosphere in this oasis of beauty brought some relaxation to Bahá'u'lláh as He sat on a rectangular bench placed in the shade of the two large mulberry trees. Many believers attained His presence there, and they too sat on similar benches.

One believer had an awe-inspiring experience as he gazed upon the face of Bahá'u'lláh in the Garden of Ridván. He was known by the name of Hájí Yahúdá. He grew up in a Jewish family; his father was the chief Rabbi of the city of Rasht and its neighbouring towns in the north of Persia. In his youth, he used to work as a pedlar travelling to various cities. On one of his trips to Hamadán, he encountered a few Bahá'ís who acquainted him with the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh and consequently he was converted to the Faith. Around the year 1888-9 He travelled to 'Akká in order to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh. His first

12

meeting with Him took place in the Garden of Ridván.

As soon as he was ushered into His presence, the scene of water flowing from the fountain near Bahá'u'lláh's feet as He sat on the bench surrounded by the two streams, vividly brought to his mind the vision of the Prophets of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament:

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.1

But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.2

He was overwhelmed by this vision so suddenly and vividly revealed to him. It came upon him as a thunderbolt and he was carried away into a different world. His whole being was stirred to its depths as he saw himself, standing with awe and wonder in the presence of the Lord of the Old Testament. His instant urge was to prostrate himself at the feet of Bahá'u'lláh, and this he did. The effect of this first meeting, and of hearing the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh on that occasion, was to create a fire of love and adoration which continued to burn within his heart till the end of his life. He was transformed into a new creation and was exultant with joy as he left the Holy Land.

On his return to Persia Hájí Yahúdá began to teach the Faith among his people. He emerged as a well-known Bahá'í teacher who succeeded in bringing a number of Jews under the shadow of the Cause, and some of these individuals became prominent Bahá'ís in Persia. Hájí Yahúdá also endured hardship and sufferings as a result of severe persecutions which were inflicted upon him by the Jewish community because of his success in teaching the Cause.3

Tuba Khánum, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's daughter, has described her childhood memories of Bahá'u'lláh in the Garden of Ridván:

Oh the joy of the day when Bahá'u'lláh went to the beautiful
13


1. Psalms 46:4 and 5.

2. Isaiah 33:21.

3. The story of Hájí Yahúdá was given to the present writer by his nephew Mr Nusrat'u'lláh Majzub.

Ridván, which had been prepared for Him with such loving care by the Master, the friends, and the pilgrims!

The Master's heart was gladdened indeed to see the enjoyment of His beloved Father, resting under the big mulberry tree, by the side of the little river rippling by, the fountain which they had contrived splashing and gurgling in sounds refreshing indeed after the long years of confinement in the pestilential air of the penal fortress of 'Akká. Only those who were present there could realize in any degree what it meant to be surrounded by such profusion of flowers, their colours and their scents, after the dull walls and unfragrant odours of the prison city.

I remember well the greatest of our joys was to go with Bahá'u'lláh for the occasional picnics to the Ridván.

How happy we were with Him. He was indeed the brightness of our lives in that time of difficulty.4

There were many occasions when the believers held feasts in that garden and Bahá'u'lláh honoured them with His presence. Such gatherings engendered indescribable joy and spirituality, beyond our imagination. The garden became truly a place of celebration and rejoicing. Siyyid Asadu'lláh-i-Qumí,* an eminent believer, has related that once Bahá'u'lláh Himself entertained all the believers with refreshments in the Garden of Ridván to celebrate the release of several Bahá'í prisoners in Tihrán. These included Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, the Hand of the Cause Hájí Mullá 'Alí-Akbar,† and Siyyid Asadu'lláh himself. In His all-embracing knowledge Bahá'u'lláh had announced their release and celebrated the occasion, whereas the telegram bearing this news reached 'Akká a day later.

There is a little house at the end of the Garden of Ridván. Here the small room in which Bahá'u'lláh rested, dined and at times revealed Tablets is kept in its original form. The renowned Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí recounts an interesting story of how he was able to see the colour of the head-dress of Bahá'u'lláh for the first

14

* see vol. 1, pp. 35-6, and below, pp. 185-7.

† see vol. 3, also below, pp. 258-70, for Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl; for Hájí Mullá 'Alí-Akbar (Hájí Ákhúnd) see below, pp. 294-301.


4. Blomfield, Chosen Highway, p. 97.
time as He was having a meal in that room. This story has been recorded in a previous volume.*

A Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh revealed there and translated into English hangs on the wall of that room today. Its perusal enables the reader to see how much Bahá'u'lláh enjoyed the Garden and how much He loved the beauty of nature. Here is a translation of this Tablet:

He is God, Glorified be He,
Grandeur and Might are His!

On the morning of the blessed Friday we proceeded from the Mansion and entered the Garden. Every tree uttered a word, and every leaf sang a melody. The trees proclaimed: 'Behold the evidences of God's Mercy' and the twin streams recited in the eloquent tongue the sacred verse 'From us all things were made alive'. Glorified be God! Mysteries were voiced by them, which provoked wonderment. Methought: in which school were they educated, and from whose presence had they acquired their learning? Yea! This Wronged One knoweth and He saith: 'From God, the All-Encompassing, the Self-Subsistent.'

Upon Our being seated, Rádíyih, upon her be My glory, attained Our presence on thy behalf, laid the table of God's bounty and in thy name extended hospitality to all present. In truth, all that which stimulateth the appetite and pleaseth the eye was offered, and indeed that which delighteth the ear could also be heard as the leaves were stirred by the Will of God, and from this movement a refreshing voice was raised, as if uttering a blissful call inviting the absent to this Feast. God's power and the perfection of His handiwork could enjoyably be seen in the blossoms, the fruits, the trees, the leaves and the streams. Praised be God who hath thus confirmed thee and her.

In brief, all in the Garden were recipients of the choicest bounties and in the end expressed their thanksgiving unto their Lord. O that all God's beloved would have been present on this day!

15

* see vol. 2, pp. 9-10.

We beseech God, exalted be He, to cause to descend upon thee at every moment, a blessing and a mercy and a measure of divine grace from His presence. He is the Forgiving, the All-Glorious.

We send greetings to His loved ones, and supplicate for each one of them that which is worthy of mention and is acceptable in His presence. Peace be upon thee, and upon God's sincere servants. Praise be to Him, the Lord of all mankind.

Rádíyih, who is mentioned in this Tablet, was a sister of Munírih Khánum, the wife of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The dinner was given on behalf of her husband who was not present at the time. He was her cousin Siyyid 'Alí, the only son of Mírzá Hádí, a distinguished Bábí, and the illustrious Shams-i-Duhá.

Mírzá Hádí, an uncle of the King of Martyrs and the Beloved of Martyrs,† became an ardent believer in the early days of the Faith. He was present at the Conference of Badasht, suffered persecutions, was attacked in that vicinity and died there. His wife Shams-i-Duhá, a close companion of Táhirih, was described by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the 'eloquent and ardent handmaid of God'.

Trustworthiness: 'ornament of the people of Bahá'

Other Tablets were revealed in this holy spot. There is a celebrated passage‡ about trustworthiness in which Bahá'u'lláh describes a vision He had in the Garden of Ridván of a Maid of Heaven. This passage appears in the Tablets of Ishráqát, Tarázát and also in a Tablet revealed in honour of Hájí Mírzá Buzurg-i-Afnán,§ one of the illustrious custodians of the House of the Báb in Shíráz. Bahá'u'lláh has often used the symbolic term 'Maid of Heaven' in those of His Tablets which are revealed in the language of imagery. Sometimes, as in this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh

16

* see Memorials of the Faithful, pp. 175-90.

† see below, ch. 5.

‡ In a Tablet to His Trustee, Hájí Amín, Bahá'u'lláh indicates that a 'Tablet of Trustworthiness' had been revealed in AH 1296 (around An 1879).

§ see below, Appendix II and p. 333.

uses this symbolism to describe the revelation of some of the attributes of God.* In others, the term may have different significances which only the deep study of the Holy Writings can reveal.

In such beautiful terms Bahá'u'lláh speaks of the importance of trustworthiness:

We will now mention unto thee Trustworthiness and the station thereof in the estimation of God, thy Lord, the Lord of the Mighty Throne. One day of days We repaired unto Our Green Island. Upon Our arrival, We beheld its streams flowing, and its trees luxuriant, and the sunlight playing in their midst. Turning Our face to the right, We beheld what the pen is powerless to describe; nor can it set forth that which the eye of the Lord of Mankind witnessed in that most sanctified, that most sublime, that blest, and most exalted Spot. Turning, then, to the left We gazed on one of the Beauties of the Most Sublime Paradise, standing on a pillar of light, and calling aloud saying: 'O inmates of earth and heaven! Behold ye My beauty, and My radiance, and My revelation, and My effulgence. By God, the True One! I am Trustworthiness and the revelation thereof, and the beauty thereof. I will recompense whosoever will cleave unto Me, and recognize My rank and station, and hold fast unto My hem. I am the most great ornament of the people of Bahá, and the vesture of glory unto all who are in the kingdom of creation. I am the supreme instrument for the prosperity of the world, and the horizon of assurance unto all beings.' 5
In all His Writings Bahá'u'lláh has exhorted His followers to adorn themselves with the vesture of divine qualities and goodly character. But He has placed a special emphasis on trustworthiness. We cannot imagine a bounty or privilege greater than attaining the presence of the Supreme Manifestation of God. And yet He states in a Tablet to His apostle 'Alí-Muhammad-i-Varqᆠthat in the sight of God it is much more meritorious for a
17

* For example, see vol. 1, p. 242, and vol. 3, pp. 223-4.

† see below, ch. 4.


5. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 37, pp. 121-2.
believer to become endowed with trustworthiness than to travel all the way on foot and attain His presence. These are His words:

Were a man in this day to adorn himself with the raiment of trustworthiness it were better for him in the sight of God than that he should journey on foot towards the holy court and be blessed with meeting the Adored One and standing before His Seat of Glory. Trustworthiness is as a stronghold to the city of humanity, and as eyes to the human temple. Whosoever remaineth deprived thereof shall, before His Throne, be reckoned as one bereft of vision.6
In the Tablet of Tarázát Bahá'u'lláh states:

The fourth Taráz concerneth trustworthiness. Verily it is the door of security for all that dwell on earth and a token of glory on the part of the All-Merciful. He who partaketh thereof hath indeed partaken of the treasures of wealth and prosperity. Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light.7
And in the Tablet of Ishráqát He reveals some of his choicest exhortations to His followers:

Say: O people of God! Adorn your temples with the adornment of trustworthiness and piety. Help, then, your Lord with the hosts of goodly deeds and a praiseworthy character. We have forbidden you dissension and conflict in My Books, and My Scriptures, and My Scrolls, and My Tablets, and have wished thereby naught else save your exaltation and advancement.8
and again:

O Jalíl! Admonish men to fear God. By God! This fear is the chief commander of the army of thy Lord. Its hosts are a praiseworthy character and goodly deeds. Through it have the cities of men's hearts been opened throughout the ages and centuries, and the standards of ascendancy and triumph raised above all other standards.9
18


6. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 4, p. 25. This English translation is published in Trustworthiness, compilation by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, p. 3, no. 12.

7. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 37.

8. ibid, pp. 120-21.

9. ibid. p. 121.

THE MANSION OF MAZRA'IH

THE MANSION OF MAZRA'IH

'A lovely place, surrounded by gardens' (above).
Below, Bahá'u'lláh's reception room on the ground floor. Here he
received his guests and dictated to his amanuenses.


THE RIDVÁN GARDEN

THE RIDVÁN GARDEN

THE RIDVÁN GARDEN

The rectangle of benches in the middle of the garden where
Bahá'u'lláh used to sit 'under the big mulberry tree, by
the side of the little river rippling by...'.

The little house where Bahá'u'lláh used to rest


THE RIDVÁN GARDEN

THE RIDVÁN GARDEN

'The fountain...splashing and gurgling in sounds refreshing
indeed after the long years of confinement'.


HÁJÍ MUHAMMAD-I-YAZDÍ

HÁJÍ MUHAMMAD-I-YAZDÍ

One of the devoted believers resident in the Holy Land

In one of His Tablets10 revealed in the year 1882 Bahá'u'lláh, in the words of His amanuensis,* gives details of a case involving two believers in Alexandria who had acted with exemplary honesty and had won His good-pleasure. They were Hájí Muhammad-i-Yazdí and Siyyid 'Alíy-i-Yazdí. These two men were not related but were partners in a successful business establishment. Before going into details of this Tablet about trustworthiness, it is appropriate at this juncture to give a brief account of the life and services of Hájí Muhammad.†

Hájí Muhammad was a son of Hájí 'Abdu'r-Rahím-i-Qannád (candymaker) from Yazd. In his unpublished 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd', Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí has written an account of the life of Hájí 'Abdu'r-Rahím. The following is a summary of a portion of his notes:

It is very difficult for me to describe his exalted character, his spirituality, and radiance, the depth of his faith and his devotion to the Cause of God. Suffice it to say that when the news of the conversion to the Faith of Hájí 'Abdu'r-Rahím became public knowledge, Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí, a mujtahid [doctor of Islámic law] of Yazd, was highly disturbed. He was reported to have said, 'If the whole population of Yazd had been converted to this new Faith, I would not have been as much disturbed as I am now over the conversion of Hájí 'Abdu'r-Rahím. Now the back of Islám is broken.'
Because his life was in danger some time after his embracing the Faith, Hájí 'Abdu'r-Rahím was forced to leave Yazd, and eventually went to the Holy Land. He was very dear to Bahá'u'lláh and was permitted by Him to reside there. Among his four sons were Shaykh 'Alí, the eldest, whom Bahá'u'lláh sent on a mission to Khartúm where he established a business
23

* Some Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh are composed in such a way that a part of the Tablet is in the words of His amanuensis, but in fact was dictated by Bahá'u'lláh to appear as if composed by the amanuensis. Every word of the Tablet, therefore, is from Bahá'u'lláh Himself. For more information see vol. 1, pp. 40-42.

† A brief account of the life of Siyyid 'Alíy-i-Yazdí is given in Chosen Highway, pp. 131-2.


10. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 28, p. 58.
and later died. As already mentioned, the other son, Hájí Muhammad, established a business with two other believers in Alexandria. And the youngest son, Ahmad Effendi, was given the honour by 'Abdu'l-Bahá of marrying His youngest daughter.

In the Tablet mentioned above Mírzá Áqá Ján gives the story of the events following Shaykh 'Alí's death in Khartúm. He says that when he died the Persian Consul sent the full account of his assets to the commercial attaché of the Persian Embassy in Cairo who in turn demanded the payment of the death duties required by law. Shaykh 'Alí's younger brother Hájí Muhammad and one of his partners Siyyid 'Alí, who are both praised in this Tablet by Bahá'u'lláh for their trustworthiness, assured the authorities that they would fulfil their obligation in this regard. A number of leading merchants of the city also assured the Persian attaché that the Bahá'ís were trustworthy people and would honour their obligation. This episode coincided with the bombardment of Alexandria by British forces in 1882 when a great part of the city was ruined and the business house of Hájí Muhammad, together with all its goods, was utterly destroyed.

The two men returned to the Holy Land almost penniless. They succeeded, however, in obtaining a sum of money sufficient to pay their debt to the authorities. Siyyid 'Alí travelled to Cairo and although by then the former commercial attaché had been dismissed from his post, he presented the sum of fifty English guineas* to his successor. Both the merchants and the embassy officials were deeply touched by this action. Knowing that the partners' business had been completely wiped out, the commercial attaché at first refused to accept the money. He is reported to have said that this noble act of honesty demonstrated by the Bahá'ís was sufficient for him. However, in the end he took the money and stated that the best reward in this transaction was that the enemies of the Faith were praising the conduct of its followers.

Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet describes this action by the two

24

* An obsolete English gold coin. Its value was finally 21 shillings.

believers as the king of goodly deeds. He prays that His followers in every land may manifest the spirit of trustworthiness among the people.

The story of Hájí Muhammad would not be complete without referring to one of his noble qualities, namely, his utter obedience to the Centre of the Cause. There was a time when Hájí Muhammad had a business concern in 'Akká. One day he was sitting in his office when the Master arrived with an urgent instruction from Bahá'u'lláh that Hájí Muhammad should immediately proceed to Jaddih (Jiddah) in Arabia. He asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá if he could be permitted to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh before departing for Jaddih. The Master told him that there was no time, for the boat was leaving at any minute. Hájí Muhammad at once closed the office, and without even paying a visit to his family boarded the ship which sailed away almost immediately. Once on board, he realized that because of the extraordinary rush, he had not even thought to ask the Master the purpose of his trip to Jaddih. But now it was too late, and he knew that Bahá'u'lláh would guide his steps when he arrived in that city. This is the best example of instant, exact and complete obedience to the command of Bahá'u'lláh.

The journey was fraught with danger because the sea was unusually stormy. The danger of the ship sinking was in everyone's mind except for Hájí Muhammad, who was sure that it would sail safely to its destination because God had given him a mission in Jaddih, the nature of which was as yet unknown to him. Soon after disembarking from the ship, he heard two people speaking in Persian among the crowds. When he approached them he soon found out that they were Bahá'ís. They were Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, that illustrious follower of Bahá'u'lláh, and his fellow prisoner Husayn-i-Shírází who had been set free from their ten-year imprisonment in Khartúm and were on their way to 'Akká.* They were in need of help and guidance, for this was their first journey to the Holy Land. Hájí Muhammad knew then

25

* For Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí's life and imprisonment see vol. 2.

that the purpose of his mission in Jaddih was to assist these two souls to go to 'Akká, a task which he then carried out ably.11

Concerning trustworthiness, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in a Tablet to Hájí Áqá Muhammad-i-'Aláqih-band, a devoted Bahá'í from Yazd, states that should a believer succeed in carrying out all goodly deeds but fail, even to a small measure, in trustworthiness and faithfulness, all his good deeds will be void.

These are His words:

If a man were to perform every good work, yet fail in the least scruple to be entirely trustworthy and honest, his good works would become as dry tinder and his failure as a soul-consuming fire. If, on the other hand, he should fall short in all his affairs, yet act with trustworthiness and honesty, all his defects would ultimately be righted, all injuries remedied, and all infirmities healed. Our meaning is that, in the sight of God, trustworthiness is the bedrock of His Faith and the foundation of all virtues and perfections. A man deprived of this quality is destitute of everything. What shall faith and piety avail if trustworthiness be lacking? of what consequence can they be? What benefit or advantage can they confer? Wherefore 'Abdu'l-Bahá counselleth the friends--nay rather, fervently imploreth them--so vigilantly to guard the sanctity of the Cause of God and preserve their own dignity as individuals that all nations shall come to know and honour them for their trustworthiness and integrity. They can render no greater service than this today. To act otherwise would be to take an axe to the root of the Cause of God--we take refuge with God from this heinous transgression and pray that He will protect His loved ones from committing so flagrant a wrong.12
In another Tablet to Jináb-i-Ibn-i-Abhar,* one of the Hands of the Cause of God, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that in their dealings with each other, the believers must uphold the highest standard of honesty and trustworthiness:

You have written on the question of how the friends should proceed in their business dealings with one another. This is a
26

* see below, pp. 304-12.


11. The story of Hájí Muhammad's travel to Jaddih was given to the present writer by his son, Mr Azíz Yazdí.

12. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 9, pp. 106-7. This English translation, Trustworthiness, p. 13, no. 47.

question of the greatest importance and a matter that deserveth the liveliest concern. In relations of this kind, the friends of God should act with the utmost trustworthiness and integrity. To be remiss in this area would be to turn one's face away from the counsels of the Blessed Beauty and the holy precepts of God. If a man in his own home doth not treat his relations and friends with entire trustworthiness and integrity, his dealings with the outside world--no matter how much trustworthiness and honesty he may bring to them--will prove barren and unproductive. First one should order one's own domestic affairs, then attend to one's business with the public. One should certainly not argue that the friends need not be treated with undue care, or that it is unnecessary for them to attach too great importance to the practice of trustworthiness in their dealings with one another, but that it is in their relations with strangers that correct behaviour is essential. Talk like this is sheer fantasy and will lead to detriment and loss. Blessed be the soul that shineth with the light of trustworthiness among the people and becometh a sign of perfection amidst all men.13
Addressing Sultán 'Abdu'l-'Azíz, Bahá'u'lláh in the Súriy-i-Mulúk (Súrih of the Kings) makes this thought-provoking statement:

Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth. He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly.14
For some, especially those who are not Bahá'ís, it may be difficult to accept the statement that a person who does not believe in God is not truthful or trustworthy. Of course there are many who do not believe in God but are honest people. However, the proper time for judging honesty or trustworthiness is the time when a person faces a difficult test. In normal circumstances many people behave truthfully. But when confronted with
27


13. Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 9, p. 96. This English translation, Trustworthiness, p. 14, no. 48.

14. Gleanings, CXIV.

seemingly insurmountable tests or irresistible temptations, then, if there is no fear of God, one will succumb under pressure. In the final analysis it is belief in God and His Messengers that evokes the urge to obey His teachings even in times of test and provocation. The fear of God, according to Bahá'í teachings, is the only means by which the individual can withstand the onslaught of self and passion in times of temptation. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh thus reveals:

...The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed and do not possess it.15
Some believe that a loving God need not be feared. In a previous volume* we have discussed the significance of the fear of God and explained that without it the believer cannot have the strength to sever his attachment to the material world and fix his gaze upon the heavenly abode of his soul.

Abu'l-Qásim the Gardener

There are many anecdotes about Bahá'u'lláh in the Garden of Ridván. The following is an account by May Bolles Maxwell† describing in beautiful language her impressions of the garden when she visited it during her pilgrimage. May Maxwell was among the first group of pilgrims from the West to visit the Master in 1898-9. She may be regarded as one of the few spiritual giants of the Faith in the Western world. When she passed away Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, described her as ''Abdu'l-Bahá's beloved handmaid and distinguished disciple' and bestowed upon her the rank of martyr.

28

* see vol. 2, pp. 94-6.

† For a brief story of her life see Bahá'í World, vol. VIII, pp. 631-42.


15. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 63; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 2 p. 95
These are her reminiscences:

After driving for about half an hour we reached the garden where Bahá'u'lláh spent much of His time during His long years of exile in 'Akká. Although this garden is small it is one of the loveliest spots we had ever seen. Bahá'u'lláh frequently said to His gardener, Abu'l-Qásim, 'This is the most beautiful garden in the world.' With its tall trees, its wealth of flowers, and its fountains, it lies like a peerless gem surrounded by two limpid streams of water just as it is described in the Qur'án; and the atmosphere which pervades it is so fraught with sacred memories, with divine significance, with heavenly peace and calm that one no longer marvels to hear of the traveller who, passing one day before its gates, paused and gazing in saw Bahá'u'lláh seated beneath the shade of the mulberry trees, 'that canopy not made with hands,' and remembering the prophecy in the Qur'án, he recognized his Lord and hastened to prostrate himself at His feet.

We visited the little house at the end of the garden and stood on the threshold of that room where Bahá'u'lláh was wont to sit in hot weather, and one by one we knelt down, and with tears of love and longing kissed the ground where His blessed feet had rested. We returned to the garden, where Abu'l-Qásim made tea for us, and there he told us the story of the locusts. How that during one hot summer there had been a pest of locusts and they had consumed most of the foliage in the surrounding country. One day Abu'l-Qásim saw a thick cloud coming swiftly towards the garden, and in a moment thousands of locusts were covering the tall trees beneath which Bahá'u'lláh so often sat. Abu'l-Qásim hastened to the house at the end of the garden and coming before his Lord besought Him, saying: 'My Lord, the locusts have come, and are eating away the shade from above Thy blessed head. I beg of Thee to cause them to depart.' The Manifestation smiled, and said: 'The locusts must be fed, let them be.' Much chagrined, Abu'l-Qásim returned to the garden and for some time watched the destructive work in silence; but presently, unable to bear it, he ventured to return again to Bahá'u'lláh and humbly entreat Him to send away the locusts. The Blessed Perfection arose

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and went into the garden and stood beneath the trees covered with the insects. Then He said: 'Abu'l-Qásim does not want you; God protect you.' And lifting up the hem of His robe He shook it, and immediately all the locusts arose in a body and flew away.

When Abu'l-Qásim concluded this story he exclaimed with strong emotion as he touched his eyes: 'Oh, blessed are these eyes to have seen such things; oh, blessed are these ears to have heard such things.' In parting he gave us flowers, and seemed, like all the oriental believers, unable to do enough to show his love.16

Abu'l-Qásim* referred to in this story is the first gardener who dedicated his life to the service of Bahá'u'lláh in that garden. He was a native of the village of Manshád in the district of Yazd. It was mainly through his hard work that the garden was built for Bahá'u'lláh. One of Abu'l-Qásim's brothers was Muhammad-Ibráhím who also served Bahá'u'lláh as a gardener at Bahjí and other places.

Ustád 'Alí-Akbar-i-Banná,† an illustrious martyr of the Faith, has recounted in his detailed history of the Faith in 'Ishqábád the following concerning these two brothers:

For twenty-seven years‡ these two brothers, Áqá Abu'l-Qásim and Áqá Muhammad-Ibráhím have been serving in the Holy Land. Áqá Abu'l-Qásim has always been a gardener at the Ridván Gardens while Áqá Muhammad-Ibráhím was a gardener at Bahjí, the Junayn Gardens, etc. Seventeen years ago when I had the honour of attaining the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Áqá Muhammad-Ibráhím in the course of our conversation told me the following story:

'One day the Blessed Beauty was in one of the holy places...That place was surrounded by dry reeds and grass. Suddenly these caught fire and the flames rapidly began to spread around. His blessed Person turned to me and said:

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* Not to be confused with the renowned Mírzá Abu'l-Qásim-i-Khurásání, who was the caretaker of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and the gardens.

† see below, pp. 118-25.

‡ He began writing this as yet unpublished history around 1902.


16. Maxwell, An Early Pilgrimage, pp. 32-4.
"Ibráhím, go and put out the fire." I immediately went towards the fire not knowing how to carry out this task. As I approached, a wind blew and pushed the fire away from me. As if the fire was fleeing from me. I put out the fire by throwing a small amount of earth over it. This incident brought to my mind the verse: "We said, O fire, be Thou cold and a preservation unto Ibráhím..."'*
Dr Habíb Mu'ayyad, who travelled to 'Akká in 1907 and was permitted by the Master to study medicine in the University of Beirut, and who later served 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land with great dedication, has recorded in his memoirs a brief account of the activities of Abu'l-Qásim in the Garden of Ridván. The following is a summary of his reminiscences:

Abu'l-Qásim served in the Garden of Ridván for many years. He worked as a gardener tending the trees, the fruits and flowers. He welcomed the friends to the garden, whether pilgrims or residents, entertained them lovingly, and ensured that they enjoyed their visit. He had devised a master-plan to prevent the Arab inhabitants of 'Akká from entering the Garden.† Whenever he was leaving the Garden to go to 'Akká either to attain the presence of the Master or to purchase food or other necessities, he would lock the gate with the instruction that it should remain locked until his return. He had invented two passwords, one which signalled that the gate was to be opened and the other that it should remain shut. When he returned, if there was no one outside the garden wanting to get in, he would call out a fictitious name, 'Shukru'lláh' (Thanks to God). This meant, 'Thanks to God there is no one bothering us', and the gate would open! If, however, there were some people outside, he would call out the name 'Hasan' which in Persian sounds phonetically like
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* Qur'án 21:68. This verse is about Abraham being thrown into the fire by his people, when God turned the fire cold.

† The Garden of Ridván was a very beautiful oasis in the area, a place full of fruits and flowers which some of the inhabitants were eager to take away. If they had been able to gain admission, it would have been impossible to keep the Garden as a holy place. (A.T.)

'They are', meaning, 'They are waiting outside', and the gate would not open! People thought that Hasan was the name of the gardener's servant. And since there was no response from Hasan they would eventually leave the garden area and go home. In this way Abu'l-Qásim protected the fruits and flowers of the garden from the inhabitants.17
Abu'l-Qásim was tall with broad shoulders, massive in size--a real heavyweight--and 'Abdu'l-Bahá sometimes made humorous remarks about his size and strength, remarks which invoked feelings of joy and gratitude in Abu'l-Qásim.
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17. Khátirát-i-Habíb, vol. 1, pp. 458-9.